Harper Woods to videotape council meetings

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published November 16, 2012

HARPER WOODS — Residents who don’t have a chance to stop by City Hall and sit through council meetings will soon get another option to see exactly what took place at the council table, without relying on meeting minutes.

When the City Council discussed a proposal to videotape council meetings at its Nov. 5 meeting, council members jumped on board to make it happen.

“I think this is an excellent idea and long overdue, particularly since we have cut back on the minutes,” Council member Charles Flanagan said of the proposal.

The council approved hiring Robbronix Audio Productions by Robert Gray — who also records the Harper Woods School Board meetings — to record the meetings, which can then be aired on cable. The cost is $200 per meeting.

City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk did some research of other communities and pros and cons of video recording meetings.

“The subject of video taping council meetings has been discussed for years,” Skotarczyk said. “In investigating other communities there are currently many that do videotape their meetings.”

When looking at reasons many communities give for videotaping meetings, he discovered that people in favor of recording meetings do so because of the public’s right to know and said that it increases transparency. Those against it cite the possibility of a video camera stifling open discussion or inviting grandstanding.

“I have no personal feelings one way or another, but the issue was brought up by more than one council person,” Skotarczyk said.

“It does create a permanent record, if there are questions,” he said.

Others on council agreed, saying that there are seniors who cannot make the meetings but want to know what is going on in the city. Also, it would be helpful to council members so that their viewpoints will be heard, Flanagan explained.

“There’s no real negative aspect to this,” he said.

“I think this is a good idea,” Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Costantino said.

The Grosse Pointe War Memorial has agreed to air the council meetings twice, following the meeting date on its cable channel at no cost to the city, according to information from the city.

As for the price to the city from Gray, Skotarczyk said he had discovered that $500 was a common price-point for this service in other communities that he researched.

Skotarczyk said the city could look at things like the possibility of archiving a copy. Council member Vivian Sawicki also asked about the possibility of putting it on the website. While the current server doesn’t have the capacity to host the meetings, Skotarczyk said he would look into whether it would be possible.